Simon Pegg and Nick Frost return in yet another bromance buddy movie but without the whip-sharp editing and direction of Edgar Wright, it doesn’t quite live up to the high expectations we’ve come to expect from the pair after Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.
Paul sees two best friends, Graeme and Clive (Pegg and Frost natch) embark upon a tour of UFO landing sites after visiting San Diego Comic Con. Fleeing into the night after angering some aggressive rednecks, they have a chance encounter with Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), a wise-cracking alien who implores them to take him with them before he gets dragged back to Area 51 and dissected by the feds.
All too keen to indulge in a geek fantasy, the two nerds stash Paul in the back of their RV and attempt to take Paul to a landing site. But things don’t go quite according to plan when they accidentally kidnap a fundamentalist Christian trailer park attendant (Kristen Wiig) and soon discover that they have an FBI agent on their trail (Jason Bateman).
Pegg and Frost are their usual likable selves and put their real-life friendship to good use and as a result the banter flows naturally. Seth Rogen also proves to be a good choice for Paul and the CGI for the little guy is impressively well rendered, allowing the stars to interact with him without a hitch.
Kristin Wiig is a gifted comedy actress (check out her stint’s on SNL) but she’s yet to find her feet in a mainstream movie (Bridesmaids will be her first leading role later this year). She gets her fair share of laughs in Paul, but as Paul himself is already the third wheel of Graeme and Clive’s relationship, dragging her into the mix for a romantic sub-plot feels tacked on and the baiting of fundamentalist Chrisitianity while initially funny (and some might say, brave) isn’t very clever (the words “fish” and “barrell” spring to mind.)
The laugh quotient is much lower than it should be. Some gags wear out their welcome very quickly (the pair is constantly mistaken for a gay couple) and others are far too obvious (the expected anal probe gag).
It’s also in danger of becoming a game of Spot The Reference. While Pegg and Frost’s previous outings revelled in sly allusions to pop culture, Paul becomes far too reliant on non-sequitur sci-fi in-jokes which might delight the geekier viewer (everything from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Star Trek, Star Wars, Aliens and E.T. come under playful parody) but will frustrate the casual viewer.
For the most part, Paul makes for a good Saturday night movie, with amusing enough gags, a comfortably familiar cast and enough references to keep the geeks happy. But it lacks the zip and sizzle that Edgar Wright brings to the table leaving it a passable but uninspiring addition to the Pegg and Frost canon.